Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 August 2017) . . Page.. 2398 ..
This is simply not the case. WorkSafe plays a crucial role in industrial relations, but it is a limited role. Its primary purpose is to enforce the territory’s health and safety laws. Health and safety are clearly crucially important to our IR system, but they are not the only part. Employment and contract conditions, remuneration and general workplace rights are just as crucial, and WorkSafe does not enforce these whatsoever. These are obviously enforced by the Fair Work Ombudsman and the federal government.
Maybe we should give Mr Wall the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he meant to say that the Fair Work Ombudsman should provide the briefings. Overall, what I find most disappointing about this motion from the shadow minister for industrial relations is that he seemingly does not believe that unions have any role to play in our community. He does not think they have a role to play in investigating breaches of the Fair Work Act, a federal issue; he does not think that they have a role to play in safety; and now we learn that he does not think they have a role to play in educating young people about the workplace.
Well, Mr Wall, you are wrong. You do not have to take my word for it. The belief that unions play an important role in our industrial system and our community is one that is enshrined in legislation. It is acknowledged by the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission. It is acknowledged here in the ACT’s laws as well, as I am sure you are more than aware of.
It is a belief that is acknowledged by every major institution in Australia except for one—the Liberal Party. And why is that? Why do the Liberals oppose unions at every step? The reason is pretty simple. They are absolutely terrified of working people standing up for themselves. If they had their way, there would be no unions and no self-determination for working people, just a government agency that they could weaken through funding cuts and redundancies.
Labor does not support that. Labor will never support that. We believe in giving working people determination over their own working lives and we believe that young kids who are about to enter the workforce should know about their workplace rights. There have been allegations made that these are recruitment sessions for unions. These are not recruitment sessions for unions. These are information sessions for the benefit of vulnerable young people. Ultimately, with this motion, Mr Wall is showing us that he does not think that unions, the representatives of working people, can help inform a new generation of what to expect as they enter the workforce. And he is wrong.
MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (4.59): At the turn of the century, and while at high school, I undertook work experience in a retail store at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome and was thankful that this led to a job for almost four years. I would have benefited from a program like that provided by UnionsACT so that I was equipped with a basic understanding of my workplace rights.
I want to remind the Assembly about the basis of employment law in Australia over the past two decades and quote from Professor Andrew Stewart: